Because of my career, I try to keep an eye on what’s happening in Hollywood. I don’t mean that in a “People Magazine” sort of way. I’m not interested in who is dating whom and why. However, I am very curious about how things are done, and even more curious about the economics. What is selling? This information is vital as I try to understand the culture and tailor my own work so that it is most effective in reaching out to people.
That’s why I was so heartened by one of Edward Jay Epstein’s Question of the Day articles last week:
Is movie sex an asset or a liability in Hollywood’s economy today?
His conclusion is one that has long been well known. G and PG-rated movies do much better at the box office than their R and NC-17 Rated brethren. What Epstein brings to the table is the recognition of how those ratings further affect Hollywood’s bottom line after the box office:
In the after-market of home entertainment, where today’s profits are almost entirely made, nudity is even more of a liability. Consider DVDs. In 2003, most DVDs were sold by mass merchandisers, who frequently use them to build storewide traffic for other products, such as plasma TVs, game consoles, and toys. Most of these merchandisers restrict their more prominent shelf space to DVDs that will not offend the family-oriented consumers whose business they seek. For example, Wal-Mart, by far the largest seller of DVDs (and videos), reserves strategic shelf space for DVDs that conform to its “decency” policy on nudity. DVDs that do not hew to these guidelines rarely, if ever, attain multimillion-copy sales. On the other hand, DVDs that pass the Wal-Mart shelf test can sell more than 10 million copies, as did, for example, Shrek, Finding Nemo, and Harry Potter.
Movies with nudity are also a problem for the studios’ other main moneymaker: television. Because the FCC regulates broadcast television (though not pay-TV or cable channels), television stations cannot show movies that violate the FCC’s standard of “public decency,” which prohibits salacious nudity.
And also that Hollywood is finally waking up to it:
So it is not surprising that in the last 5 years, the number of R-rated films produced by Hollywood has dropped from 212 to 147.
This is good news. The battle is hardly won, as the quality of G and PG movies still leaves a lot to be desired, however, it is heartening to know that most Americans aren’t buying all the garbage that rolls out of Los Angeles.